”I wanted to thank you even though it’s hard to thank you enough for such an awesome day! Unlimited rides and games is every kid’s dream and that dream became a reality today! Cancer adds a lot of worries to life but one thing I didn’t have to worry about was planning a fun Chol Hamoed trip. I didn’t even have to worry about taking enough food. You took care of everything and it was absolutely amazing! It was a day we will all always remember. Thank you.” writes Rivka L. about Chai4ever’s Chol Hamoed Pesach Day of Fun and Adventure at The Funplex in Mount Laurel, NJ, on Wednesday, April 27. There was fun for children of all ages, with many indoor and outdoor attractions including a roller coaster, go-karts, lazer tag, bowling, unlimited arcade games, and much more.
With over 1000(!) children and parents, you might think there would be chaos, but Chai4ever’s devoted volunteers seemed to be everywhere all at once, juggling multiple tasks to make sure every child had the absolute best time. Serving snacks, helping kids with rides, giving out souvenir T-shirts – and always with enthusiastic smiles. “I was surprised to realize how stressed out I had been,” said Dovid, a cancer patient and father of four. “Once I saw how competent and caring the volunteers were I relaxed, and all of a sudden it was like a thousand-pound weight rolled off my shoulders. There was nothing left for me to deal with – you thought of everything!”
Food is always a challenge on Chol Hamoed outings, particularly on Pesach, but Chai4ever rose to the challenge. “My kids are very picky,” mused Avi W., “so we packed some food. But it ended up staying in the car, unneeded. As soon as we walked in to the Funplex, we saw mountains of chips and cookies, bowls of fresh fruit, mounds of candies, and platters of tuna and lox. There were hot dogs for those who wanted meat, cheese snacks for those who didn’t, and all kinds of drinks. My kids even got to-go bags to fill with snacks for the ride home!”
The day ended on a high note – literally! – with a rocking concert by Boruch Sholom and Yehuda Green. Spirited singing and dancing were the perfect conclusion to an exhilarating day. Seriously ill parents danced and swayed to the music, holding their children tightly, and the volunteers made sure to keep everyone’s spirits soaring.
Rabbi Shmuel Zaks, Executive Vice President and Founder of Chai4ever, explained why he and his staff expend so much time and effort putting together these grand events. “Pesach is a difficult time for anyone,” he said, “but when you consider the stress families with a seriously ill parent suffer on a constant basis, you realize that they and their children need a chance to relax, enjoy, and celebrate. We are determined to make their Yom Tov as joyful as possible, and with the help of Hashem, our generous benefactors, and dedicated volunteers and staff, we were able to give them a Chol Hamoed trip to remember.”
Chavi P. emphatically agreed. “I was always the ‘planner’ in my family. When the symptoms of my multiple sclerosis worsened, I couldn’t muster the focus necessary to work out the details. My children were very disappointed, but I just couldn’t do it. Chai4ever was a lifesaver! They took care of everything – snacks, rides, supper and all. Just look at how happy my kids are!”
The Chol Hamoed extravaganza was the cherry on top of Chai4ever’s wide array of programs aimed at helping families with a sick mother or father. “We carefully assessed each family’s situation and needs,” explained Rabbi Zaks, “and devised a tailor-made solution to ensure they could have a normal Yom Tov.” Their staff and volunteers have had an extraordinarily busy few weeks, ensuring their families’ homes are made free not only of Chometz, but also of stress and anxiety. Homes and cars were cleaned, hundreds of meals were prepared, packaged, and delivered, and groceries, clothing and shoes were carefully selected and purchased. For families who simply could not remain at home, respite retreats at Pesach hotels for all or part of Yom Tov were arranged. They even bought personalized Afikoman gifts for each Chai4ever child, to make sure they all experienced their own Simchas Yom Tov.
Chaim Z. was diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly before Chanukah. “At first, we managed somehow,” he relates, “but things kept getting more and more difficult. By the time Purim had passed, we felt we had hit rock bottom. My children were downcast, and I had no idea how we were going to make even the most simple Pesach preparations. Then we got in touch with Chai4ever. Our social worker calmed our fears, and assured us that everything would be taken care of. Sure enough, they took care of all the cleaning, cooking, and shopping. Their Big Brothers and Sisters took my children out to play, so my wife and I could get some rest. They made our Yom Tov more than just manageable – they made it joyous! And the Chol Hamoed outing was the icing on the cake. From the moment we arrived, my kids had an absolute blast! I can’t describe how much better I feel knowing that my children had a fun Chol Hamoed trip.”
One precocious eight-year old poignantly summed up the event in as ringing an endorsement of success as anyone could hope for: “I haven’t had this much fun since Mommy got sick!” The exhausted but elated faces all around suggest that she is not alone in this sentiment.
For more information about Chai4ever, visit www.chai4ever.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (646) 519-2190.